TirolWool: A Story of Success
Ort: Alpbachtal Seenland
Hopfgarten in Defereggental Valley, East Tirol. A mountain farm with adjoining inn, encircled by steep meadows and pastures. Peter, the son, returns home from school. The farm is a sheep farm. One of the sheep welcomes Peter. It is his favourite sheep and acts almost like a dog. Peter caresses the sheep before he enters his home and washes his hands to help in his parents’ inn.
Peter has left his parents’ mountain farm a long time ago. Today, he is managing director and chief instructor of the Tirol Mountain Rescue. However, Peter Veider still has a deep love for nature and sheep. Years ago, he began to find ways of using Tirol sheep wool in the clothing industry to support Tirol sheep farmers.
Peter Veider – Rescuer, Nature Lover, Sheep Addict and TirolWool Inventor
The Tirol Mountain Sheep in its ideal habitat.
The Proven Benefits of Tirol Sheep Wool
Thinking of sheep wool, I recall the itchy sweaters my Grandma used to knit. Today, the coarse wool of Tirol mountain sheep is not used as textile anymore. Nowadays, the fleece of sheep is used as padding in outerwear. What you might not know is that the wool on a sheep’s back is actually a sophisticated web of fibers with a variety of uses. That is exactly what Peter Veider wanted to show.
Together with his daughter and the Technology Center for Ski and Alpine Sports at the University of Innsbruck, he succeeded in scientifically proving the benefits of Tirol sheep wool. An environmental chamber was used to test the effects of extreme weather conditions on 60 test subjects wearing jackets padded with Tirol sheep wool. Extreme conditions are very familiar to the managing director of the Tirol Mountain Rescue anyway. Mountain rescue team members are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to save lives. No matter how cold, wet or stormy the weather is on the precipitous crags from where they recover climbers.
The result of the environmental chamber testing was very convincing: Tirol sheep wool is breathable, thermo-regulating, warm even when wet, and a perfect insulator. Moreover, wool is natural, renewable and sustainable, making it a preferable alternative to down and synthetic insulations. However, the results are not all that surprising. After all, sheep have been able to survive the harsh elements at elevations of 2,000 meters using their wool coats to protect them from extreme cold and heat. So why not use this versatile fiber to protect humans from the elements, too?
The Tirol Mountain Sheep is a breed of tough-as-nails sheep, living in harsh conditions where normal sheep wouldn’t survive.
Partnering with Salewa
Peter Veider had the vision of providing Tirol’s 4,500 mountain rescue team members with functional outerwear using Tirol sheep wool as insulation. However, it was years before his vision turned into reality. The clothing was to be manufactured in Tirol and it was meant to be stylish, colourful and durable. By wearing high performance jackets made of locally sourced wool, the young team members, all volunteers, were meant to identify themselves with the association and strengthen the bond.
As he was not able to find an appropriate clothing manufacturer in Tirol, Peter Veider extended his search to neighbouring South Tyrol, Italy. He found the Salewa Company in Bolzano. Company owner Heiner Oberrauch’s mother was born in Innsbruck, so there still is a connection to Tirol. Heiner Oberrauch designed jackets for the Tirol Mountain Rescue that are insulated with Tirol sheep wool. This led to the birth of the “TirolWool” brand. The wool filling has outperformed synthetic fibers in the meantime. Today, Salewa exclusively uses the natural and sustainable “TirolWool” insulation in its high performance outerwear. Now, that’s what I call a story of success!
Tirol Mountain Sheep are sheared twice a year.
While Peter Veider is happy to have found a product that delivers positive results for consumers, he is as well happy about what it can mean for those in the local sheep industry. The going-rate per kilogram for wool has tripled. It is still a modest Euro 1.50 per kilogram, but the bottom line was improved, and that’s quite something. Ascribing to the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats, future uses are being discussed. A Japanese mattress producer, for example, is interested in filling his mattresses with “TirolWool”.
That’s what the TirolWool Filling looks like…
“TirolWool” is available at the Tirol Shop
Salewa jackets made of locally sourced TirolWool are not only available to mountain rescue team members and extreme athletes, but for all those who are looking to be kept warm during their outdoor activities.
And that’s the reason why I need such a jacket. Freezing out while strolling over the Christmas Market is simply unacceptable to me!